Stephen Bliss paints and stencils his work directly onto layers of posters that have been pulled down from advertising sites found in and around New York.
His latest exhibition, The Mystery of Doomed Romance (and other stories), will feature a selection of these palimpsest-like works when it opens at the Westbank Gallery in London on October 19.
As well as working as an artist Bliss is known for his time as Senior Artist at Rockstar Games, where, from 2001 to 2016, he created illustrations for video games such as Grand Theft Auto, Red Dead Redemption and LA Noire.
Commenting on the work in the new show, Bliss says: “Many of my pieces contain narratives that yield clues to the nature of strained or forgotten relationships and I felt this title perfectly defined the symbiotic relationship between the humour and the darkness that underpins my work.
“Painting snippets of discarded love letters, found in flea markets, onto paper, provokes the viewer to imagine the love stories of those who are long dead, for example.”
Bliss’ works are constructed from various elements and sources and, he says, he is particularly drawn to sites covered in layers of posters that have built up over the years. Having initially created a backdrop from these fragments, Bliss then paints directly onto the torn papers.
“When I am walking through the streets of NYC or on the subway, I often encounter what look to me like ready-made pieces of art,” Bliss says.
“Hoardings and walls are plastered with advertising posters, large sections of which have been ripped away or covered with paste-ups, sprayed graffiti tags, stickers, etched protests and the ramblings of anonymous people.
“Tears in the posters reveal layers of long-forgotten images from other eras: parts of model’s faces and bodies are exposed; random isolated letters and words from advertising tag-lines become incoherent glyphs and symbols. These ready-made art walls simultaneously evolve and decay, and I love the beauty that emerges from this chaos.”